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Michael C. Hall embraces the monster
LOS ANGELES — After five seasons and countless victims, Michael C. Hall has gotten used to playing serial killer-killing serial killer Dexter Morgan on Dexter. And after the announcement a year ago that he was undergoing treatment for lymphoma, Hall is getting used to being cancer-free. He spoke with Metro about keeping his health problems a secret, playing a sociopath and why all the death and dismemberment of Dexter doesn’t bother him.
Your cancer is fully in remission, but is it true you didn’t tell anyone on the show about it at first?
I mean, I found out about it probably while we were shooting the tenth of 12 episodes of the fourth season. I mean, everybody is exhausted at that point, so if I seemed tired, I don’t think it seemed suspicious to anybody. I wanted to get as much information as possible and make as many decisions as possible before I let anyone know about it just so that when I let them know, I could tell them as much as I could and answer as many of the questions they would inevitably have.
So yeah, for those last two-and-a-half episodes, I kept it quiet. It was just instinctually what I felt was best at the time, and I thought that I would keep it quiet because it coincided with the hiatus. But because I had some personal appearances, I knew people would ask questions about my eyebrow-less-ness.
Is it fair to say Dexter doesn’t feel emotions?
You know, I think we’re meant to be suspicious of Dexter’s claim at the beginning that he doesn’t have the capacity for emotion. But at the same time, there’s a disconnect between his conception of things and his connection to his emotional life. Sometimes he’s doing things that are ultimately motivated by something that’s going on for him emotionally, but I don’t think he realizes it or he catches up to that fact, like, “Oh, that’s why I did that.” We’re all like that. We look back at something we did in hindsight and realize it was motivated by something that we didn’t consciously appreciate at the time.
Do you see him as a villain or a hero?
No. I do my best — in spite of the fact that he’s there’s a sort of magical fantastical element to the show and to the world of the show — to see him as a person.
Did you ever consider yourself a squeamish person, and has that changed?
Not really, no. I think I would be squeamish if I were looking at the actual things we’re simulating. But as long as I know it’s fake, I’m totally comfortable believing pretending it’s real, if that makes sense, you know. If we had real severed body parts, I would lose my lunch as soon as anybody. But if I know that it’s fake, I can really appreciate how much I can endow it with reality.
When you watch the show yourself, are you critical or can you enjoy it?
Both. I watch it as we’re making it. I watch cuts of the show. And so as we’re going, I’m watching what we’re doing and. At this point, sometimes there are things that make you cringe as an actor, like, “Why did they use that take?” or, “Why did I do that?” or, “Why don’t they take the camera off my face?” But at this point, I think I can be relatively objective and enjoy. And I do enjoy it. I mean, I like the show.
What kind of attention do you get from people in public?
I certainly am recognized quite a bit, but people are very sane, you know. I guess if anything, you know, some people say, “You know, if you run out of people to kill, I have…” [laughs] And I stop them. I don’t want to know. And you don’t want to tell me, not that I’m going to kill them. Just don’t go there.